Bathroom Grab Bars: Achieving the Best Height

Nate Birt

Written by Nate Birt on Wed May 10 2023.

Women holding hands.

Bathroom Grab Bars: Achieving the Best Height 

If your loved one needs help getting around the house, the bathroom can be a cause for concern. Installing grab bars to avoid falls is an important preventive step to take as you make the home safer. Many people forget to consider what the optimal height of the grab bars should be for their loved ones to ensure their safety. 

This simple invention can give your loved one confidence, keep them comfortable, and ensure safe trips to and from the bathroom. Here we break down what grab bars are and how to install them. 

What Are Grab Bars?

Grab bars are rods installed most often on the walls of a bathroom. They make it easier for your loved one to move around or change positions. For example, grab bars are often placed:

  • Above and behind a toilet located next to a wall

  • Next to a toilet

  • Next to showers or bathtubs

  • Inside of showers

Grab bars come in many shapes and sizes. They’re most often made of fiberglass, metal, or plastic and can be wrapped in different materials to enhance grip, even when wet.

How High Should Grab Bars Be Installed?

The proper height of a grab bar will depend on your loved one’s situation. Federal guidelines, like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), state that grab bars in public buildings should be installed between 33 and 36 inches, or roughly 3 feet above the floor. You can view ADA illustrations online that show how grab bars are installed.

As a caregiver, you can work with your loved one or partner with an occupational therapist to decide the best height for the grab bars you install in your home. Some role play can help nail down the best installation height. For example, go with your loved one on an imaginary bathroom visit and see how they sit down, stand up and move around the room. 

Make notes and take measurements to clarify exactly where grab bars could be most helpful to them. Remember that you can always adjust later to ensure your loved one’s comfort and safety. Here are some other factors to keep in mind as you are installing grab bars:

  • Height: If your loved one is shorter than the average person, you might need to lower the height of grab bars to make it easier for them to move around. Similarly, low grab bars won’t be as effective if your loved one is tall. 

  • Quantity: You might initially think your loved one only needs a single grab bar. After observing them, you might realize another bar or two around the shower could be helpful. Many grab bars are available for under $20 each

  • Placement: If you’ve ever visited a public restroom, you know grab bars can go in different places. Observe setups in other bathrooms as you’re out and about. Ask your loved one’s doctor or other trusted experts in your support network for recommendations on grab bar placement. You don’t need to overdesign with grab bars, though you also shouldn’t miss an opportunity to provide extra support if needed. 

In What Direction Should Grab Bars be Placed?

Grab bars can be placed horizontally (parallel to the floor), vertically (perpendicular to the floor, standing in a line that points at the ceiling and the ground), or at an angle. Below are a few things to keep in mind as you consider what direction to install the grab bars in. 

  • Horizontal installation: This is the most common orientation for grab bars. This placement lets your loved one put their weight on it when moving into a sitting position. It can also help them pull up into a standing position. Horizontal placement is typically common around toilets.

  • Vertical installation: You might have seen this placement next to showers. This position provides plenty of surface area for grabbing as they move from the bathroom floor into the shower.

  • Angled installation: If your loved one uses a shower seat, it might make sense to put grab bars nearby at an angle to assist in sitting and standing.

Some grab bars offer even more options. For example, some look like an upside-down letter “U” and include horizontal and vertical surfaces for grabbing. You might see these grab bars between a bathroom floor and a tub or shower. 

Be sure to read any instructions for the grab bars you purchase. Understand the tools and components you’ll need to install them in the right direction and securely. This will keep your loved one safe as they are moving around the bathroom.

Where Can I Purchase Grab Bars?

Carewell carries several easy-to-install grab bars. Offerings range from wall bars to shower/tub-specific grab bars. 

Where Can I Learn More About Grab Bars?

The best resource besides your loved one’s doctor will likely be an occupational therapist. Some helpful federal government websites offer illustrated guides on properly installing grab bars. For example: 

Need More Help?

If you need help finding the right grab bar for your situation, our Caregiving Specialists are available 24/7 to answer your questions! Call us anytime at (800) 696-CARE or email us at support@carewell.com.

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Nate Birt
Nate Birt

Nate Birt is a healthcare writer with a journalism degree from University of Missouri. He lives with his wife and their four children on a small farm in Missouri.